Soriano to go back to leadoff for Cubs in Thursday's return

CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano will remain at the top of the Chicago Cubs' order for now.

Manager Lou Piniella said Soriano will stay in left field and bat lead off when he returns from the 15-day disabled list Thursday, just as he had been doing.

Soriano was off to a slow start before he strained his right calf, batting .175 with just two homers and five RBIs. The leg injury is his second in less than a year, but despite calls to drop him in the order, Piniella said Soriano is staying put.

"He's been swinging the bat very well in batting practice," Piniella said Tuesday. "The ball's jumping off his bat. Let's hope that on Thursday when we get him in there, he gets nice and hot for us."

Soriano landed on the DL for the first time in his career last August when he strained a quadriceps muscle running the bases, and he hopped back on it on April 16. He limped off the field the previous day after making his familiar hop to catch a first-inning flyball, although he insisted the hop did not cause the calf injury.

The Cubs had won eight of 12 without him and led the NL Central at 16-9 entering Tuesday's game against Milwaukee.

"If we hadn't been winning, they'd say, 'Boy, these guys really miss Soriano,'" Piniella said. "It was unfair. If Soriano had been in there, we'd be playing the same way."